Once again we return to our list of the greatest science fiction novels of all time. We are selecting novels for our list based primarily on the awards each received. As we discussed in previous installments, using awards as objective evidence of greatness can be deceiving.
A novel that was published during a below average year might run away with all the awards. Likewise, amazing novels that were published in the same year might split the awards amongst themselves.
The other obstacle to our pursuit of an objective list is the awards available. Today there are more awards handed out to science fiction novels than ever before. At the same time, there are also more novels eligible for these awards.
Do these two facts cancel each other out? Our last entry in the list would argue against the notion that novels cannot achieve the same level of greatness due to the variation in award selection criteria and the vast legion of competitors.
Many of the awards available today are recent entries into the landscape of science fiction. Some did not appear until the 1980s; others appeared in the 1970s. Selecting entries for our list when only the Hugo Award was available will pose some challenges for us, not to mention the decades before even the Hugo was invented.
Fortunately, we will leave that quest for another day. Today we will look into the 1970s once again, when so many of the great science fiction novels were written. At the time, there were only the Hugo, Nebula, Campbell, and Locus awards handed out regularly with no limitations. The BSFA Award was also handed out, but it required publication in the UK. The Jupiter Award was briefly awarded, but lacked consistency.
Before we get to this latest entry in our list of the greatest science fiction novels of all time, we will revisit our entries so far.
The Greatest Science Fiction Novels of All Time
- Rendezvous on Rama by Arthur C. Clarke (Best Novel Awards: Hugo 1974, Nebula 1973, Locus 1974, Campbell 1974, British Science Fiction Association 1973, Jupiter 1974, Seiun 1980)
- Gateway by Frederik Pohl (Best Novel Awards: Hugo 1978, Nebula 1977, Locus 1978, Campbell 1978)
- The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin (Best Novel Awards: Hugo 1975, Nebula 1975, Locus 1975, Jupiter 1975; Nominations: Campbell 1975)
- Dune by Frank Herbert (Best Novel Awards: Hugo 1966, Nebula 1966; Nominations: Hugo 1964 for Dune World)
- Neuromancer by William Gibson (Best Novel Awards: Hugo 1985, Nebula 1985, Philip K. Dick 1984; Nominations: Campbell 1985, British Science Fiction 1984)
- Startide Rising by David Brin (Best Novel Awards: Hugo 1984, Nebula 1984, Locus 1984)
- Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie (Best Novel Awards: Hugo 2014, Nebula 2014, British Science Fiction 2013, Arthur C. Clarke 2014; Best First Novel Awards: Locus 2014, Kitschies Golden Tentacle 2013; Nominations: Philip K. Dick 2013, James Tiptree, Jr. 2013, Compton Crook 2014, Campbell 2014)
The Forever War by Joe Haldeman
Author: Joe Haldeman
First Year Published: 1974
- Nebula Award for Best Novel 1975
- Hugo Award for Best Novel 1976
- Locus Award for Novel 1976
The Forever War by Joe Haldeman was one of the first novels the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America Grand Master ever wrote. In fact, he wrote the novel as his master’s thesis in college.
The novel started its published life as so many of the greatest novels have, as a serialization in Analog Magazine. Later it was published in its first edition. The publisher decided to abridge the novel in its first release.
The greatness of the novel still managed to make a mark on readers despite the middle portion of the novel missing in action. More recent versions present the definitive version of the novel as Joe intended.
The novel itself captured much of the life experiences and views that Joe Haldeman discovered in the Vietnam War and mingled them with amazing science. The Forever War follows William Mandella as he takes part in a war against an alien race known as the Taurans.
The war pulls Mandella thousands of light years from home and forces him to deal with time dilation as well as the aftereffects of war. When the character returns to Earth, he finds that society has changed drastically over the many years he was away.
Haldeman uses the novel to explore many social and scientific ideas. He demonstrates his truly remarkable ability to tell a gripping story that touches the reader intellectually and emotionally.
Robert Heinlein wrote a letter to Joe Haldeman calling the novel, “the best future war story I’ve ever read!”
If you have never read The Forever War, add it to your list. If you have read one of the abridged versions, it’s time to read the definitive edition. The Forever War is one of the greatest science fiction novels of all time.